Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement regarding the release of the U.S. State Department’s 2016 International Religious Freedom Report:
“I commend Secretary of State Tillerson for personally releasing the State Department’s latest International Religious Freedom Report and helping to underscore how seriously the United States takes this fundamental human right. I welcome the secretary's unequivocal characterization of the Islamic State’s atrocities against Christians, Yezidis and other religious minorities as genocide, and his recognition that the promotion of religious freedom globally is both a strategic and moral imperative.
“The report powerfully documents the assaults on religious freedom that occur around the world every day. Government authorities arrest and unjustly imprison religious leaders and people of faith, bulldoze worship buildings and deny building permits, institute blasphemy and apostasy laws that silence dissent and carry the death penalty, and tacitly support others’ attacks on religious minorities. These violations are a clear threat to the ability of people to peacefully live out their faith according to their conscience, and the need for principled and steadfast American leadership in this area has never been greater. Robust implementation of the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act must be a priority in the days ahead.”
Last month, Rubio applauded the president’s nomination of Governor Sam Brownback for ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, and sought clarification on the State Department’s position regarding genocide against religious minorities in the Middle East.
In March, Rubio urged Tillerson to personally release the State Department’s annual Human Rights Report, as previous secretaries of state had done. When Tillerson did not personally release the report, Rubio warned that when the world sees America “is not prepared to stand up and call out governments that abuse their citizens, it demoralizes these people all over the world and is damaging to America’s credibility.”
Rubio was the lead Senate sponsor of the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, which became law in December 2016. The legislation strengthens and modernizes the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, providing the State Department with new tools to counter the spread of violent extremism and promote and advance the universal human right of religious freedom around the world.
Rubio is a leading advocate for international religious freedom issues in the Senate, and played a central role in the reauthorization of the bipartisan, independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2015.